Mon, 18 Jan 2021

New Delhi [India], December 3 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed an order of the Gujarat High Court that made it mandatory for those violating the face mask rules to do community service at COVID-19 care centres.

A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan directed the State of Gujarat through Additional Chief Secretary to ensure that the guidelines issued by Centre and Gujarat for wearing masks are "vigorously implemented" in the state by Police officials.

In a bid to control the COVID-19 situation in Gujarat, the High Court on Wednesday ordered that those not found wearing masks will have to serve a "compulsory community service" at Covid care centres and directed the state government to pass a notification in this regard.

The Gujarat government had later approached the top court challenging the order of the High Court that directed the state government to punish those found not wearing a mask with community service at a COVID care centre.

During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Gujarat government said though problem of people not wearing mask is serious but the solution is not to punish them with service in Covid care centres.

"Harm of not wearing masks much less than sending such person to Covid centre," Mehta said.

The apex court observed that the order of the Gujarat High Court is very difficult to execute. Justice MR Shah added that "there is a lack of will though so far as implementation is concerned and the High Court has taken note of this."Justice Shah told Solicitor General that the Central government comes out with SOP's and guidelines but asked what about their implementation. "People are gathering in marriage functions, thousands of people," Justice Shah noted.

People are roaming in malls, people are getting together, what about the implementation? Justice Shah remarked, adding that people who do not wear masks are violating the fundamental rights of other persons.

Mehta replied that social distancing and masks are only available solution to citizens. This is perhaps in our culture, to be indisciplined, hanging masks is the norm, Mehta said.

During the hearing, the bench asked Mehta about how much fine is imposed in Gujarat when person is not wearing mask. Mehta said police officials impose a fine of Rs 1,000 on people who do not wear masks.

Justice Shah said even after increasing fine, question is again of implementation and if it is being done and how these repeated incidents are happening? There is some laxity somewhere, he noted. (ANI)

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